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By: George Friedman
In 2016, the British government called for a referendum on whether the United Kingdom should remain a member of the European Union. The British people voted to leave. Since then, there has been a struggle in Britain to reverse the decision and a struggle between Britain and the EU on the terms of the departure. It’s now 2020, and the process still isn’t finished. Given that the EU is based merely on a treaty – not a federation – sovereignty is a matter for individual states, not the “government” in Brussels. Treaties are arrangements between nations, not a merger of nations, and therefore are reversible.
Since we are about to see a new and presumably final round of negotiations on the divorce, with the EU now calling for a rapid resolution, even as the Irish question is now the blocker, the real issue is how this matter has dragged on so long. To anyone who has been divorced or seen one, it makes sense: Divorces are almost always filled with rage, recrimination, desires to inflict pain and sometimes the desire that the old affection be resurrected. The children are made pawns. Friends must choose sides. The difference, of course, is that Britain’s relationship to the EU is simply a matter of national interest and not the result of a love affair. Britain and the EU lived together when they had to, but they never married. And so the lawyers continue to meet as each side creates more barriers to an amiable disengagement.
The first barrier to the separation was within Britain. The technocratic classes and the financial community took it for granted that Brexit would be rejected by the voters. When it wasn’t, they had two choices: face the fact that they had misunderstood their country, or label the vote flawed and the result of ignorance on the part of those who voted for withdrawal. Naturally they chose the latter, a decision that is primarily responsible for Brexit’s delay. If the ignorant voted for Brexit, all they needed was a little education in the error of their ways, or so the thinking went. The best strategy, then, was to delay Brexit and persuade the country that Brexit would be catastrophic so that the government could reverse the vote.
The problem was that the technocracy and the financial community were confusing their interests with those of the country as a whole. Free trade had benefitted many, but it had also left the industrial classes struggling as low-wage countries had access to the British market. The result was a near depression in the industrial heartland of Britain. As in other countries, those who benefitted from free trade were either indifferent or mostly ignorant of the price others were paying. They never imagined they would lose the referendum, but then they didn’t know how many unemployed industrial workers there were.
A second barrier concerned national sovereignty, particularly on immigration. The enlightened elite felt a moral obligation to help immigrants. They were in lockstep with the elite of the European continent on this. Of course, the immigrants would not be living with the elites in their neighborhoods. Immigrants live in low-cost housing, the same kind that the industrial class has lived in since its decline. The idea that immigration could not be blocked under EU rules meant not only a loss of national sovereignty but a burden to be uniquely carried by those who have lost the most.The irony was that, historically, the political factions that championed the interests of the industrial working class and were hostile to the financial elite fo
Interesting article that summarises the issues.
I thought so! Difficult to make a more succinct review.
Di (amina046) said:
Difficult to make a more succinct review.
I agree. Thanks for posting it.
Today in Parliament is going to be an interesting day!
Di (amina046) said:
"the British government says would be prepared to break the terms of an international treaty."
It's a negotiating tactic. If there's a deal with the EU, it won't happen. If the EU refuses a deal and seeks to split NI off from the rest of UK, then we will unilaterally nullify that part of the treaty. Hopefully it won't be necessary.